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Is there any data available on where pilots undertake their training?

I'm interested to know whether most (USA) pilots complete their training at a controlled airport, or at a uncontrolled field.

I'm interested in this because it would likely give an indication of the relative level of comfort of new pilots operating in both controlled and uncontrolled airport environments.

I assume that it's likely that a Designated Pilot Examiner would be more likely to operate out of a controlled field just due to traffic volume, so the location of issuance of a pilot's certificate isn't necessarily a good proxy for where training hours are undertaken.

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  • $\begingroup$ What is a DPE?? $\endgroup$ – Terry Apr 4 '17 at 19:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Terry Designated Pilot Examiner - the guy who does the final check and issues the (interim) pilot certificate. Most pilots do their pilot test with a DPE. faa.gov/other_visit/aviation_industry/designees_delegations/… $\endgroup$ – CJBS Apr 4 '17 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think anybody keeps this statistic, but you could search for flight schools and note how many are co-located with controlled fields vs uncontrolled ones. The school I used is at a controlled field, but we often flew to uncontrolled fields to practice, so in reality I think my training was about 50/50 controlled/uncontrolled. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Apr 4 '17 at 19:42
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No one really tracks these stats and they would be tough to track on any note. The latter half of my training was out of an uncontrolled field but lots of touch and gos occurred at controlled fields so I had lots of experience talking to the tower even though I was not flying out of a towered field.

I'm interested in this because it would likely give an indication of the relative level of comfort of new pilots operating in both controlled and uncontrolled airport environments.

As a pilot you are responsible (as per the ACS) for understanding the regulations and procedures for both situations and in todays day and age it would be foolish for an instructor to not at least present both situations in your training. That being said, you can technically get your PPL in an airplane that does not even have a radio but you are still responsible for understanding the regulations and may be asked to explain them on your check ride.

I assume that it's likely that a Designated Pilot Examiner would be more likely to operate out of a controlled field just due to traffic

The DPE that I went to was at an uncontrolled field (as are the other 2 in my area). Im not sure this is an accurate generalization.

Keep in mind the DPE will go over your logbook and may look at the airports you landed at. If you dont have sufficient towered experience they may ask extra questions about that but you may not be required to demonstrate it on your check ride.

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As Ron stated, I don't think anyone is keeping track of this specific statistic, but given a few factors, such as convenience, cost, insurance requirements, safety, etc., it makes much more sense to do flight training at an uncontrolled airport. I did mine at a towered airport because I had no other choice, but I did all my add-ons (multi and glider) at uncontrolled airports. Besides, a DPE can choose to tell you to fly to any controlled airport near you to find out if you meet the requirements.

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